76ers

NBA Playoff Notes: No timetable for Jazz center Rudy Gobert (knee) to return

NBA Playoff Notes: No timetable for Jazz center Rudy Gobert (knee) to return

LOS ANGELES -- Utah center Rudy Gobert has been diagnosed with a left knee hyperextension and bone contusion after his collision 17 seconds into the Jazz's playoff opener against the Los Angeles Clippers.

The team says he will continue to be re-evaluated. No timetable for his return was given.

Gobert was taken from Staples Center on Saturday night for an MRI, which revealed no ligament damage. Initial X-rays also were negative.

He knocked knees with Luc Mbah a Moute on the first possession of the game, which the Jazz won 97-95.

Game 2 is Tuesday at Staples Center.

Isaiah Thomas inteds to play Game 1 vs. Bulls, a day after his sister was killed
BOSTON -- Celtics coach Brad Stevens said it is point guard Isaiah Thomas' "intention to play" Sunday night in Game 1 of Boston's first-round playoff matchup with the Chicago Bulls, a day after his sister was killed in a car accident.

Stevens said Thomas went through the pregame shootaround, but added he has been emotional and it's up to him to decide whether he ultimately plays. Thomas received word that younger sister Chyna Thomas died early Saturday in a one-car interstate accident in their home state of Washington. She was 22.

The Celtics' All-Star guard was informed of her death following the team's practice Saturday afternoon.

Condolences have poured in from around the league, from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and various players and friends. Thomas, in his sixth season, grew up in Tacoma, Washington, and starred at the University of Washington.

"He's struggling," Stevens said. "Obviously, it's tragic circumstances that he and his family are going through right now. Our thoughts, first and foremost are with them...We've talked a little bit last night and then again today (that) as he goes through it and if he feels like he needs to not (play) -- then whatever he wants."

In the locker room prior to the game, emotions among Thomas' teammates were raw.

Center Al Horford, who touted the opportunity to play alongside Thomas as one of the main reasons he decided to sign with Boston as a free agent this past summer, said everyone is just trying to give him space right now. He expected Sunday's game to be an emotional experience for his teammate.

"It has to be," Horford said. "Isaiah is a very strong man and none of us have any idea what he's going through or feeling. The fact that he's even here is just a lot of credit to him. It's a difficult time, but we're here for him and we're going to go out and compete and play hard."

Forward Tyler Zeller said they just want to try to make his basketball world as easy as possible right now.

"He's the reason we are where we are," Zeller said. "He's had an unbelievable season and he's our No. 1...We're gonna go out and help him out in any way."

The Bulls were among the first NBA teams to release a statement of condolence for Thomas on Saturday. Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg said he expected what is usually a high-energy Boston arena to be filled with even more emotion Sunday.

"It's a horrible tragedy," Hoiberg said. "He just seems like such a good kid, and obviously he's one of the great competitors we have in our league. ... It's just awful what happened."

Sixers 122, Hornets 119 (OT): Jimmy Butler nails game-winner to give Sixers a crazy win

Sixers 122, Hornets 119 (OT): Jimmy Butler nails game-winner to give Sixers a crazy win

BOX SCORE

The Sixers wanted a player who could create his own offense in crunch time.

Jimmy Butler showed on Saturday night in Charlotte he is very much that player.

Butler’s contested three-pointer with 0.3 seconds remaining in overtime gave the Sixers a 122-119 win over the Hornets. Brett Brown cleared out for Butler and let him go to work after his new star missed an open mid-range jumper for the win at the end of regulation. 

Butler made a great defensive play the possession before his game-winner, blocking Kemba Walker and making an acrobatic play to keep the ball inbounds.

Somehow, some way, the Sixers survived a career-high 60 points from Walker.

• It doesn't matter that Butler only shot 4 for 11 from the floor. Regardless of what's happened earlier in the game, you can tell him, "Get me a shot" and he will deliver when it matters. It's a quality the Sixers have been missing, and it's a quality he clearly possesses. 

• To say that no lead is safe with the Sixers is only a slight exaggeration. They led by as many as 17 points in the second quarter but finished the second quarter poorly and didn’t start the third well either. Saturday night was the third straight game they squandered a lead of at least 16 points. The Sixers also blew leads of 10 points with under four minutes left in the fourth quarter and five points with under two minutes remaining in overtime. Big leads dwindle all the time in the NBA, and the excuse of playing the second game of a back-to-back on the road is valid, but the larger pattern of allowing opponents back into games is a problem. 

• Brett Brown said after Friday’s win that Ben Simmons faces the “biggest adjustment” playing with Jimmy Butler (see story). Whereas Simmons tended toward deferring to his teammates in his first two games with Butler, in Charlotte he found the right balance between borderline reckless drives to the rim and intelligent, classic point guard facilitation. 

There was also another beautiful example of Simmons already being on the same wavelength as Butler.

And a reminder that Simmons is a pretty special athlete.

Simmons posted a season-high 23 points, with 11 rebounds and nine assists. He made 9 of 11 free throws. 

• Walker can score against any player in the NBA, and that includes Butler. The Sixers held Walker to 33.3 percent shooting in their first two matchups against Charlotte, but it was only a matter of time before Walker had a big night against the Sixers. Walker is just too quick, too crafty, and simply too good to stop.

At a certain point, though, you wonder why the Sixers didn’t start sending immediate double teams at Walker or trapping him on pick-and-rolls to make his job more difficult. 

• For the second straight night, the Sixers’ offense started out hot. After scoring 38 points on 13 of 15 shooting in the first quarter Friday vs. the Jazz, the Sixers put up 42 in Charlotte.

Embiid had 18 of those points, starting off 7 for 8 from the floor and scoring at all three levels. Unsurprisingly, Cody Zeller proved to be a much easier matchup than Rudy Gobert. 

• Brett Brown has, for the most part, been very consistent with his first-half rotations — Embiid always plays the first five or so minutes before being taken out. In each of his first three games, Butler has played approximately the first eight minutes of the game and the last eight minutes of the half. 

Embiid told reporters after Wednesday’s loss to the Magic that he was “pissed” about being subbed out after five minutes despite hitting three early three-point shots. There is again an argument to be made that Brown should have diverted from his typical plan against the Hornets and stuck with Embiid, given the big man’s great opening stint.

At this stage of the season, however, there’s no reason to overextend Embiid early in games. After years of having to worry about minutes restrictions, Embiid has played more minutes than any player in the NBA. Even if a couple more minutes for Embiid in the first half of a game might help the Sixers on occasion, it’s just not worth it in November. 

• Speaking of minutes restrictions — With the Sixers on the second night of a back-to-back, Wilson Chandler was limited to 12 minutes, all in the second half. Mike Muscala started in his place. 

While Muscala only had six points, this was one of his better defensive games of the season. He acquitted himself reasonably well when switched onto the Hornets’ guards. 

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Sixers at Hornets: 3 storylines to watch as big 3 takes on Kemba Walker

Sixers at Hornets: 3 storylines to watch as big 3 takes on Kemba Walker

After an impressive home debut in the Sixers' win Friday over the Jazz, Jimmy Butler and company are back in action Saturday against Kemba Walker and the Hornets for the third time this season (see essentials)

The Sixers have taken the first two matchups, which have both come down to the final minutes.

Here are three storylines to watch for tonight's game:

Who shines in the fourth?

We’ve got three of the top fourth-quarter scorers this season all on the floor tonight in Butler (second), Walker (fourth) and Joel Embiid (sixth), and the last time these two teams met, they needed more than 48 minutes (Sixers won, 133-132, in overtime).

It wouldn’t surprise me if we get another close game down the stretch, but who will be the one to take over?

Jimmy Butler vs. Kemba Walker

Last night, when guarded by Butler, Donovan Mitchell was held to just 11 points on 5 for 20 shooting and went 0 for 6 from three-point range. Furthering that point, not one Jazz player scored a three-pointer if Butler was guarding him.

Walker is second only to Stephen Curry in three-pointers made this season. Defending the three is going to be a big key tonight, and it’ll be fun to watch Butler defensively on Walker.

Ben Simmons ... where art thou?

At times, Ben Simmons has looked a bit out of sorts, and he admitted after Friday’s game that having so many different roles to start this season has been mentally frustrating. Simmons also said that he thinks the Sixers are at a place now with Butler that he knows what the coaching staff needs from him. Brown said what they need from him is to be a point guard and "connect the dots." 

Will Simmons connect those dots tonight?

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